When I say the word books, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Is it a particular book you love? Is it a memory of reading something at a particular place or time? Is it a memory related to reading? Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. Whatever it is, it’s probably something that has been with you for quite a long time and that someone, somewhere fed your love for books. I believe that people who love books, have probably done so from a very early age. It’s not just about the reading part, although that is probably the most important part of loving books. No…I think it also has to do with the visceral reaction we have to books, whether it’s to one book in particular, or to books in general.
There is something deeply rooted in many of us that literally pulls us towards anything with the written word. Sometimes, we don’t even have to like the object of our affection. Just the fact that it’s a book is enough to make us want it. I see catalogues from various book sellers and even though I have absolutely no interest in an early 19th century book about guns, I still want to see that book! I want to hold it. I want to thumb through it and maybe read the first page or so. I want to know how much it costs and I want to vacillate over whether or not I can afford it and whether or not I want to add it to my collection, not because I love 19th century books about guns, but because it’s a book! It’s an old book! And it’s old! And it’s a book! See what I mean?
So yes. When I think of books, I definitely think of books but one of the first things that comes to mind for me is my daddy. Which is kind of funny because my mom was the voracious reader in our family even though I surpassed her in my voracity to read when I was still very young. My dad was a very, very casual reader. He was not the one who stayed up until 2am reading, that was my mom…or me…under the covers with a flashlight, of course.
No…my dad wasn’t the big reader of the family. What he was, was a man of infinite patience. The man who, every two weeks, almost without fail, drove me to the library in downtown San Antonio. This was not a quick trip to the library. No. We lived a good 20 minute drive away from the main library and this meant we had to eat dinner before we left because, as I’m sure you can well imagine, once I got to the library, I was not leaving until it closed.
So after we finished an early dinner my dad would tell us to get in the car and he would drive to downtown San Antonio so I could have my evening at the library. My brother would come sometimes too but he was irrelevant to me at that time. He only got in my way and got bored quickly so it was better when he didn’t go. This was mine and my daddy’s night. We’d drive around looking for an open parking meter, park, feed the meter (I got to do that too!) and walk to the main entrance of the library.
As soon as we walked in, I literally ran up the steps to the 3rd floor where the children’s library was located. Dad checked in my last batch of books, then waited for the elevator and eventually made his way up. Meanwhile, I would systematically begin walking up and down every aisle on the floor looking for books that might interest me. My dad, the saint, would make his way to the little kids reading area and sit down to wait. Sometimes, he’d thumb through a book but more often than not, he would just sit there, patiently waiting for me.
I never made it through the entire floor in one evening. Not for lack of trying, though. I walked, head turned sideways so I could read titles better, pulled books halfway out so I could scan the cover. If it looked interesting, I’d pull the book all the way out and open it so I could read the description on the back or on the sides of the dust jacket. If it sounded good after that, I added it to my pile. After I had more books than I could easily carry, I made my way to a table, dumped them all and proceeded to read the first two pages of every book. If I was hooked after the first few pages, they made my “take-home” pile and the rest I dutifully re-shelved. Pretty soon, I had a pile of books that I would then have to cull again (because libraries put LIMITS ON YOU. Why? I don’t know?!) to choose the books that would be making the journey home with me.
Week after week, month after month, my dad and I followed this ritual. My dad was a man of few words. He didn’t often say, “I love you” because I suppose men at that time weren’t really big into expressing affection like that. But I knew he loved me because he did this for me without a gripe. Ever. Proof positive…we also had a book-mobile that parked itself near our neighborhood once a week but daddy never took me there unless I needed to return some books and check out others in between main library visits. He could have copped out of our library visit, but he rarely did. He could have told me it was too far to drive. He could have said he was tired from a long day at work. He could have found any one of many reasons to back out, but he didn’t.
So I believe I owe my love of all things books to my mom, who taught me to love to read, and to my dad who willingly fed my voracious appetite for books without once complaining how much it cost him.